August 18, 2021

Sun Devil Stadium full of lights, music and traditions to get students inspired

With a full contingent of students back on campus for the first time in more than a year, Arizona State University welcomed the Class of 2025 with music and fireworks on Tuesday night.  

Clad in gold T-shirts for the traditional Sun Devil Welcome pep rally, thousands of students poured in from the Polytechnic, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses to join their Tempe classmates. They filled nearly half of Sun Devil Stadium on the Tempe campus, where they met Sparky and learned the fight song.

Last year, the event was streamed online because the COVID-19 pandemic forced most students to learn remotely. This year, ASU welcomed a record number of first-year students — more than 14,350 — onto its campuses.

The pep rally combined the Sun Devil Marching Band with lessons about ASU traditions, like Echo From the Buttes (when first-year students paint the A on "A" Mountain white to symbolize a fresh start to the school year), spirit-pumping videos and a plea to get involved.

Sparky, cheerleaders and the Sun Devil Marching Band

The Sun Devil Marching Band and ASU Spirit Squad lead students through the ASU fight song during Sun Devil Welcome. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

John Hopkins, a finance major who is the Tempe student body president, said he got involved in Greek life, clubs, student government and the local community.

“Getting involved will open countless doors for you and will lead to an unforgettable experience here at ASU,” he said.

“The friendships you will make here and the connections you will build will last for the rest of your life.”

Each ASU college was recognized, and the new Sun Devils screamed and waved glow sticks and giant foam hands.

students waving foam fingers

Aeronautical management technology first-year student Jantyler Ucol (center) cheers along with fellow engineering students before the start of Sun Devil Welcome. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

Current ASU students also shared inspirational stories about giving back. Jasmine Amoako-Agyei is studying marketing, sustainability and technology entrepreneurship and management. She founded Countdown, a startup focused on reducing plastic pollution in Ghana, her family’s home country, and at ASU.

“I knew I wanted to do something,” Amoako-Agyei said. “I invite you all to join me in the solution space. Don’t be afraid to fail.

“Explore what it is you are passionate about and take that leap of faith. We all have something valuable to contribute.”

Overall ASU enrollment will be more than 134,500 undergraduate and graduate students, including ASU Online, when fall semester classes begin Thursday, an increase of more than 7,000 students from fall 2020.

Joanne Vogel, vice president of student services, took to the stage at Sun Devil Welcome and asked the students: “Have you heard that this is supposed to be the best four years of your life?”

“I’m here to do a little myth busting,” she said. 

“College is about ups and downs, highs and lows.”

She implored the students to reach out for academic or emotional support if they need it.

Bollywood dancer team performing on stage

Members of Andaaz, ASU's official competitive Bollywood Fusion Dance Team, perform during the 2021 Sun Devil Welcome. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

Savannah Dagupion, a first-year student from Maui, Hawaii, came the Sun Devil Welcome from the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“It was a happy surprise and so much fun,” she said.

“It was interesting seeing everyone from all the campuses and also thinking that it was only first-year and transfer students there.”

Dagupion also attended a smaller welcome event over the weekend for students from Hawaii.

“I’m moving from so far away so I was stressed to meet people because I don’t know anyone here, but having that event made me feel so welcome,” she said.

And the students loved it.

“When you put 50 Hawaiians in a room, as we call it back home, we like to ‘talk story’ and get to know each other and we all have that common ground of being from Hawaii,” said Dagupion, who came to ASU so she could attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Arizona has been a culture shock for me, but it was so nice being around like-minded people.”

At the Sun Devil Welcome rally, Nancy Gonzales addressed the Class of 2025 for the first time in her new position as executive vice president and university provost of ASU, in charge of the entire Academic Enterprise.

woman speaking on stage

Executive Vice President and University Provost — and ASU alumna — Nancy Gonzales greets students during the 2021 Sun Devil Welcome. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

“It is a thrill to see you all together in this stadium in person,” she said.

“I love that you all bring different experiences and pathways to get here, and I want you to know that we honor all of the experiences you bring to ASU.”

Gonzales, who was the first in her family to earn a college degree, told the students that she was once where they are now.

“I am the first ASU provost to be an ASU graduate,” she said as the students cheered.

“I tell you this because I’m living proof that your ASU experience can take you where you want to go.”

Top photo: First-year Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College students (from left) Ellie Kurz, Sierra Nelson, Roisin Haslam, Bethany Haskin and Cami Hetrick pose for a photo together during Sun Devil Welcome at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe on Aug. 17. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News

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